Margaret River, Western Australia
1–3 December 2020


Michelle Thompson

Lecturer, Sustainable Tourism Program, Central Queensland University

Michelle Thompson


Michelle graduated with a PhD from James Cook University in 2015. Her PhD focused on aspects of tourism in agricultural regions, an area of interest which she continues to be passionate about. Michelle is currently a lecturer in the sustainable tourism program at Central Queensland University and is supervisor to two PhD students and 3 masters students. Her research interests include tourism in agricultural regional areas, regional tourism development and issues related to sustainable tourism in natural areas. Michelle is currently involved in running a series of workshops with an industry partner on developing tourism products based on agricultural resources.


Seizing the Opportunity: Promoting Ecotourism as an Alternative to Overseas Travel

The cessation of international travel as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has created both hardship and opportunity for Australia’s ecotourism sector. Advice from IATA that international travel may not reach pre2020 levels until at least 2024 is a compounding factor. The loss of international arrivals can be mitigated by refocusing marketing efforts to tap into the unmet holiday demand for the 11.3 million Australians who travel overseas annually. To capitalise on this new domestic market destinations and enterprises will need to re-evaluate their marketing strategies, product delivery styles and pricing. An important part of this process will be developing a detailed understanding of the domestic visitor and reengineering product offerings. This paper reports on the findings of a long-term visitor survey undertaken in Cairns. Key objectives of the study were to understand: the importance that domestic visitors place on access to nature; the importance of visiting national parks in destination selection; the level of enjoyment of environment based activities; and visitor dispersal patterns into surrounding regions where many of the destination’s key ecotourism assets are located. The study found that just over half (55.2%) of domestic respondents indicated the environment was a major consideration in selecting a destination most or all of the time. Surprisingly, only 40% of domestic repeat respondents visited the Great Barrier Reef indicating the need to re-evaluate product offerings to tap into this large market. Results indicate that there is significant potential to promote refreshed ecotourism experiences in the domestic market.